Sedelmaier Productions Not Afraid of "Strangers with Candy"
PLAINS, NY February 16 Going against everything he was taught as a
youngster, animation director J.J. Sedelmaier, of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions,
was not afraid of "Strangers with Candy." As a result, he enlisted Ward
Sutton and produced the animated :30 show opening for Comedy Central's
hit "alternative reality" series.
In Ward's trademark charicature style heavy line with bright, flat
colors the open sums up Jerri Blank's (played by Amy Sedaris) life
from the moment she walked out of Flatpoint High School, lo these many
years ago, through her downward spiral into drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll,
prostitution, robbery, and finally, hard time. But, now she's back at
Flatpoint, determined to pick things up where she left off some 30 years
earlier. Only she's a little, well, blank.
Sedelmaier got the call at the suggestion of creator/ writer/ lead actor
Stephen Colbert, who portrayed the voice of "Ace" in t SNL's animated
'Ambiguously Gay Duo,' which Sedelmaier produced. "Producer Jerry
Kupfer called but I told him I would have to see the show before committing.
Sedaris's character is played so broadly, and the other leads appear
so, almost normal, that I knew we could have some fun with the open."
"What we had done last season with the show open was tell a testimonial
background story. This season, rather than have Jerri talk directly
to the camera to tell the backstory, we decided to use animation,"
said Jerry Kupfer, Comedy Central producer. "We tried to give
the open the feel of Bewitched or I Dream of Jeanie."
"Strangers with Candy" was one of those dream jobs," Sedelmaier
claims. "And a lot of things happened on various creative levels
that were pretty cool, especially the chance to work with Ward Sutton,
whose cartoony, edgy style has long intrigued me. Ward and I had been
trying for some three years to work on something together. This was
perfect. I told Ward that I wouldn't do it if he wasn't interested."
"J.J. got it right away," said Kupfer. "We wanted a
little bit of a darkside look, but not too much. J.J. suggested Ward
Sutton, who did a fabulous job, really nailed it. We're exremely happy
and based on the feedback so far, we think that's its added an incredible
amount to the show."
Sutton, whose career is in the ascendant since his New York Times Magazine
cover illustration of Prince Charles, and posters for John Leguizamo's
"Freak" and Jackie Mason's Broadway show "Much Ado About Everything,"
designed the Jerri Blank character. "Ward's (Sutton) style was tailor-made
for the show," said Sedelmaier. "We passed along the initial
designs and quickly moved into high gear over the Christmas break for
'Strangers' January debut."
Throughout the process Ward remained closely involved, fascinated by
the process of seeing his first creation brought to live, and also contributed
several character cards which serve as lead ins and outs. With the drawings
in hand, Sedemaier's lead animator Tony Eastman took over. The ink and
paint work was given to Cha-pow!, NJ. "Ward was very involved with
all the color design, which we handled completely via email," said
"J.J. called, told me he had been looking for a project that fit
my style, and said 'Strangers' seemed fun. He said he would do it if
I was interested. I got some videotapes and liked the show a lot,"
said Sutton, who makes a acting debut in a cameo appearance as
a police sketch artist in an upcoming episode.
"We worked together with the leads Steven Colbert, Paul Dinello and
Amy Sedaris. I did some characters which they loved, and proceeded to
work off supplied content boards," said Sutton. "J.J.
make a storyboard and I rendered the scenes in my trademark style. I
loved the result and was amazed how much J.J.'s people put into it to
create the sophistication of movement."
Sutton is recently returned form the Sundance Film Festival, for
which he created the festival poster, program film guide, ticket art,
T-shirts, and animated tags. "I'd love to do a film, probably something
short to start with then, down the road a feature film or series. Attending
Sundance and working on the set with 'Strangers with Candy' were very
J.J. Sedelmaier, the acclaimed director and animation visionary,
is president of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, White Plains, NY. Established
in 1991, the award-winning studio has brought to life many of the seminal
broadcast animation projects of recent years, ranging from the launch
season of MTV's Beavis and Butthead, to an on-going series of edgy shorts
for NBC's "Saturday Night Live," to the retro-hip Japanimation style
VW "Speed Racer" commercial. Clients include all the major television
networks and popular brands like Nike, Converse, Old Navy stores, Ortho
and Quilters Northern Tissue. Recent awards include several 1999 Telly
Award; a 1999 Art Director's Club Gold Award; and a 1999 Distinctive
Merit Award from the Art Directors Club.